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THE DESERT GUARDIAN                   31
of those men whose desecrating guns had knocked off half its nose. What thoughts must have run through the Sphinx's brain when these barbarians began to fire! First amazed, then affronted, finally it must have resumed its ancient philosophical resignation. The Egyptians bkme this mutilation upon Napoleon's soldiers; the French archaeologists attribute it to the Mameluke soldiers of the eighteenth century, declaring that the nose was used as a target for their artillery practices. But Napoleon would never have permitted such desecration of the oldest statue in the world. The little Corsican was too great a man, too much a lover of artistic things, too ardent an admirer of the outstanding works of antiquity, and too thoughtful not to have perceived and valued the significance of the stone dreamer of the desert. The Mamelukes would certainly have had less qualms, feeling as they did the Muhammedan detestation of idols. One Arab historian even mentions a fanatical sheikh who, in 1379, tried to break the Sphinx's nose in fiis zeal for Allah. The real truth is, however, that the damage was begun in a much earlier time than that of either Mameluke or Frenchman, and later centuries merely witnessed its completion. For during that long period which stretched from the fall of the Pharaohs till the nineteenth century, superstitious travellers did not hesitate to arm themselves with hammer and chisel and procure talismans and mementoes at the Sphinx's expense. Part of the mouth was thus chipped away by visitors who came at a time and under a rule which did not value the monuments and antiquities of the land as they are valued to-day, when visitors can no longer do what they please and when the authorities provide vigilant protection for Egypt's* first monumental work of art.
Not all travellers betrayed such barbarous habits. A few, who came as long ago as the time of the Greek and Roman monarchs, could not resist the temptation of cutting their names on the side of the Sphinx or on the girdle-walls of the deep basin in which it stands, names which the curious may still observe and decipher in our own time. And on the second toe of the left paw, so faintly scratched as to be scarcely readable, certainly unseen by the crowds who come and go to-day, there is a charming original sonnet addressed to toe Sphinx and signed by a celebrated name, none other than that of Arrian, the historian of Alexander the Great. The beautiful Greek verses deserve a printed record somewhere.